Monday, April 27, 2009

Appearance, or: One Thing You Can Control

In a world in which we can control so little, there is plenty of reason to spend time on the one thing we do have control over: our personal appearance. The article you can reach by clicking on this post's title details "10 Things Recruiters Won't Tell You" by JT O'Donnell -- and most of them have to do with appearance. To wit, here are the first two on her list:

1. Your interview attire is outdated/messy/too tight/too revealing/too flashy.
2. Your physical appearance is disheveled/outdated/sloppy/smelly/overpowering (e.g. too much perfume).

The third is: Your eye contact is weak/shifty/intense.

I'm going out on a limb here to guess that weak eye contact stems in part from a lack of confidence. One can become more confident when one feels well dressed and groomed. So in that sense, the third item is related to appearance.

A number of questions usually come up related to any post about appearance. These are the ones I normally hear:

* Why should I have to conform to what the employer/society dictates?
* Why can't I just be myself?
* What if I look too dressed up?
* What constitutes a good appearance?

JT's article confirms what I've read and learned over the years: that first impressions are lasting impressions. At a recent seminar with Eve Michaels , I learned that an impression is formed of someone within 30 seconds. To change that impression would take 45 minutes of conversation.

If the initial impression is negative, how likely is it that you'll get 45 minutes to change the initial impression? Not very.

Now, people may say "but look at Susan Boyle - she didn't have to look great to wow people on Britain's Got Talent!" She's the exception that proves the rule, in my opinion. Susan Boyle had the advantage of a fantastic voice that was apparent within five seconds of her opening her mouth. It took her getting through the entire song flawlessly for the audience and judges to be won over. To me, the really interesting thing is that Susan Boyle now has gotten her hair cut and colored, and is wearing immensely more flattering clothing. Like many women, she was dying for a makeover and took full advantage of the opportunity presented by her amazing talent.

Few of us have such talent and even fewer of us will be selected to appear on American Idol or America's Got Talent or a similar venue where we can show we are the swan in ugly duckling attire. We depend on making a great initial impression so that people will want to continue talking with us.

Our image is part of our communication tool box. You can have a professional image that still is "you" when you

* pay attention to the colors and styles that look best on you
* become familiar with what is acceptable dress for the industry in which you work
* add your personality through accessories, like a great necklace or a scarf

How can you figure out what looks best on you?

Magazines are a great source of information and inspiration - as long as you avoid adopting fads that don't suit you. Friends may tell you what looks best on you. You probably have an innate sense of what works on you. I know I have my mom's voice in my head and she's right. I really want to look good in a full-skirted dress, but my figure just won't support it. I am best in sheath dresses.

As far as colors go, I like to go to Old Navy and stand by the mirror with a stack of the T-shirts that come in every imaginable color. Holding each one up to my chin, I assess whether my skin looks bright and glowing next to the color - or if I look washed out and dull. I like to look at certain colors but they just don't work for me as far as clothing. Rather than fight that reality, I surrender to it and wear colors that I know look good on me.

Regarding makeup, I advise at least mascara and a lip color or gloss. Obviously, there are women who don't wear any makeup. That's OK, even if you want a job where you represent the company publicly - as long as you know you will need to impress the interviewer with your confidence and presentation skills. Without makeup, you're at a certain disadvantage because the presumption is that women need to wear makeup to be public representatives. It's just the way it is.

The real message here is that - like it or not - appearance matters in this world of speedy transactions and exchanges of information. Pay as much attention to your appearance at an interview as you do to preparing your resume and cover letter. You can control these things, so why wouldn't you?

Interview Questions

The most difficult interview questions are the ones you aren't prepared to answer. Often, these questions fall into two categories.

1) there are questions you wish won't be asked because you haven't come to terms with or become comfortable with the answers. These include "why did you leave your last job?" when you were laid off or fired, "why are you interested in this field?" when you really want to change fields because you hated your last one, "what did you like least about your old job?" when you hated your old boss and are tempted to bash him or her. If you don't exactly match the job description requirements, it can be tricky to explain why you are still the best candidate.

The best preparation for handling these questions is rehearsing the answers with someone else, until you are comfortable - honest and not defensive or attacking. An interview is not the place to criticize a former employer, ever. Figure out how to phrase things in a positive way, as in "this situation was challenging and I realized that I would be able to contribute much more in a role similar to this one."

If you can, return the focus to the job for which you're interviewing. I was fired and had to develop an answer that indicated that I was not to blame, that it was run-of-the-mill organizational politics, and besides, I'd accomplished all I intended there, so it was actually a good time to leave and find something that offered me new challenges, such as this job.

Salary questions also can be difficult. My clients now say "I'm hoping to make between x and y, and of course am flexible because I really would like to work at this organization."

"What's your biggest weakness?" is always tricky to answer, as is "what's the most difficult work challenge you've faced and overcome?" It's best to thread in a little self-deprecating humor there - if you say you have no weaknesses, the interview will think you're arrogant or blind to yourself. I like to say "weaknesses depend on the job, of course - I'd like to think I have none but of course I have some! I find myself apt to give people more time to prove themselves on the job when it might be better to let them go." To me, that is a real weakness cloaked in kindness. Then I add "so I've learned to establish very clear monthly benchmarks at the beginning of their employment. That way, I can tell very quickly if someone is or is not going to work out." That's the trick - to follow up any discussion of a weakness with a description of how you have learned to compensate for it.

"Tell me three words that describe you" is another fun one to prepare for, as is "what would one of your employees tell me about your management style?" That last one was one of my favorites, because it asked people to step outside of their own perspective and look a bit more objectively at themselves.

2) other difficult questions are those clearly related to the specific employer. Perhaps they ask you to respond to an imaginary scenario and tell them what you would do in that situation. The response clearly should involve some knowledge of the company, but you might not have gone through the website in enough depth.

The best preparation for an interview is reading through the website and taking notes on things you might be curious about, re-reading the job description to make sure you have a good grasp on the most important items (usually top 4 to 5 duties and requirements) and how you match them, and putting together a list of your own questions.

In the right setting, I suggest bringing a pad of paper on which you list your questions, and putting on the table in front of you. The best interview is one that evolves into a conversation, so hopefully your questions will be answered during the interview. Usually, the interviewer will give you a chance to ask questions near the end of the interview. You can go through the list, saying "you've answered most of them already, I just have this one (or two)." If you haven't gotten most of your questions answered during the interview, ask just the one or two MOST important ones, and leave the rest for a second interview. You might also wonder if you want to work at a place that remains so opaque after an interview...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Confidential Job Search using Social Networks

Using social networks for a job search is smart. What if you want to keep your search confidential? Can you use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter then?

The good news is that all these networks have the option of private communication between contacts, so use them.

LinkedIn is especially great for confidential searches because, apart from the Q&A boards where people ask for help with jobs, there's no public place to "announce" your intentions. Certainly, don't ask for help finding a job anywhere public. LinkedIn is more for professional contacts and industry connections, not for daily updates, so that's helpful. Use the messages method for asking people for meetings or introductions. Find jobs on LinkedIn or other job boards, and use your network to find 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connections to the specific employer. No one needs to know who you are contacting; there's not really a way for that information to be public anyway.

One client was leery of even signing up for LinkedIn. However, she realized that it is a network created for all kinds of professional networking, and was prepared with an answer for her boss if ever asked about why she was on LinkedIn. She joined some of the groups focused on her industry, and that served two purposes: getting her into a larger network, and giving her access to information and trends in her industry. She was able to use some of that information to benefit her current work. By the way, other people from her work are on LinkedIn and no one has yet to ask her why she's on it. The real question these days is: why aren't you on LinkedIn? or Plaxo, or some other social networking app.

Facebook can be a little more challenging with its more public updates and wall postings. However, you can use the message option to ask people to respect your confidentiality. You also can set greater privacy settings on your Facebook account so your info is only visible to your friends. If your boss is a friend, then Facebook may not be the best option for you. Invite your Facebook connections to become LinkedIn contacts, instead.

Twitter has the DM option for private communications. Also, you can protect your updates so they can be viewed only by people you approve as followers. That would allow you to tweet about your job search. I'd have to check but I think even with protected updates, people can see who you follow. If you follow a lot of job sites/coaches, it might raise some eyebrows. One option is to create a second Twitter account specifically for the purpose of following job search sites, using a different name and avatar.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pay Cut?

Furloughs and pay cuts are a fact of life today. So how does one deal with reduced income and increased workload?

First, accept reality. This is happening everywhere. Bosses are doing what they think is right for the greatest number, and getting kudos for doing so. Personally, I think it's great that leaders are doing this - for most people, it's better to have a job than not have one as unemployment benefits are minimal and certainly won't cover all one's living expenses. Also, this will not be the situation forever, despite what you fear. That's the other reality you need to accept.

Second, don't complain at work. It will simply annoy the bosses who made the decision to save as many jobs as possible by spreading the pain. You don't want to stand out as the person who thinks only of him/herself. When you complain, you may mark yourself as the person who will next be laid off. Maybe that's what you want, in which case go for it. Be aware of the potential consequences, however.

I once had a senior staff person who objected to across-the-board pay cuts because she needed every penny to cover her lifestyle expenses. It soured my opinion of her when I thought that she'd rather sacrifice a couple of people's jobs so she could continue to maintain her lifestyle. People would perhaps not be able to afford rent, but her concern was overtly for herself. Our relationship deteriorated from there, and I ended up terminating her employment as she no longer represented values I sought in my senior leadership team. Had she kept her concern to herself, she might have kept her job a little longer and had the chance to look for something else. From her perspective, my stance on across-the-board pay cuts may have indicated that our values were already very different, and it wasn't a place at which she wanted to work any longer.

Third, find a safe place to complain. There is the reality that losing income means a certain amount of hardship. And you are certainly allowed to be upset - in appropriate places and at appropriate times. When you need to complain, find a well-paid friend from outside your workplace who hasn't been furloughed or taken a pay cut - because many other folks won't be very sympathetic.

Fourth, seize the opportunity to build a more sustainable lifestyle. Budgeting and cutting back on your spending is a great way to cope with the immediate implications of a pay cut or furlough. This is the time to bring your lunch, walk instead of ride/drive, watch movies on TV instead of using Netflix or going out, make coffee/tea at home and bring it to work in your insulated cup, learn how to cook, and take a walk instead of going to the gym. It won't be forever that you'll be in this situation, and you will probably learn some great new habits that will help you get more secure financially.

Fifth, plan for your future. This is a great time to think about whether you'd rather lose your job or take a pay cut. If you'd rather lose your job, I'm sure that can be arranged. Remember you won't get unemployment if you resign, however. Sometimes companies are willing to lay someone off who no longer wants to be there...think carefully before you ask, though.

If you're like me, you'd rather take a pay cut and consider your options. Here are a few ways to start.

Gather more information about the industry in which you work.

Is it a growth industry or one that is dying? If it's dying, the pay cut or furlough is probably the first of many. If it were me, I'd start pulling together my resume and investigating other fields/industries into which I could transfer.

If I'm in a growth field already, then why is my particular company having to cut pay? If it's an industry-wide impact, then I might bide my time and wait for the upturn. If it's poor management or prospects at my company, then again I'd dust off the old resume and get cracking on finding a new position.

In today's job market, I'd expect to take minimum 3 months to get a lower-level job, 6 for a mid-level job, and 9-12 months for a high-level job. I wouldn't count on getting much, if any, pay increase at a new job. However, coming in at your present pay level can lay a good groundwork for pay increases in the future.

Begin your job search by networking.

By all means avoid complaining about your pay cut to people whose help you want. Most people like to refer colleagues and friends who are positive and will reflect well on them. It's smarter to talk about seeking new challenges, etc.

If you want to change fields/industries/occupations, do enough research on-line to know what you want to explore. Once you've targeted some areas, you can begin informational interviews with people in your natural and extended networks. In that case, I do think it's OK to tell people that you've done your homework and realize that there is a limited future for your industry or field, and you're taking the time to investigate other options so you'll be prepared when the market improves.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The link reached by clicking this post's title gives great strategies for overcoming the perception that you are "overqualified" for a lower-level or similar-level job within your current industry.

Some of these tips are also useful if you want to transition to the non-profit field from the for-profit field, or switch industries. In these instances, it is easier to make the case for you starting at a lower level regardless of your past experience and skills.

In my experience as a CEO and manager, attitude is the biggest red flag when an employer is considering a highly experienced candidate. Will that person be happy in a job reporting to someone less experienced? Will that person stay in the job for more than six months? Or are we simply a stepping stone for their next job? You'll stand a better chance of being considered and hired if you can honestly commit to staying one to two years, and convince the hiring person/people of your humility and sincerity.

Be honest with yourself FIRST, though. Don't tell people what they want to hear and then renege on your promise. That's out of integrity, and poison if you are trying to enter a new field or industry. Word can spread that you are unreliable, and instead of being a stepping stone, this first position could be your last. Only commit to what you know you'll deliver.

Volunteering for Non-profits as a Career Strategy

Volunteering is a great way to start in the non-profit field. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to succeed.

Find one to three with missions in which you really believe . You can find groups in your area on or any volunteer matching group in your community. Research the groups on the internet and become familiar with their work before you contact even one group. I recommend this because you may find that you want to volunteer for all or only one of them. You need to find the "right fit" for your personality, skills and career goal. If you volunteer at more than one, you'll get more experience in the field and more opportunities to accomplish things. And by identifying more than one in the first place, you'll have options if your top pick turns out to be a horrible place to work, or they have no volunteer opportunities.

You need to really believe in the mission because you won't be paid.
Instead, you'll need to be "rewarded" with your satisfaction in contributing to something really important. Most often, you will pay your own way; non-profits typically do not cover any expenses for a volunteer except those directly involved in the project you are working on (e.g. paint for a painting project, stationery/telephone/copying for any office-based project). You'll cover your own travel, lunch, etc. expenses.

Make sure the organization has a volunteer coordinator. Without a dedicated staff person to handle volunteer assignments, it's often hard for the organization to manage volunteers. It also makes it challenging for you to know who can help you if you have an issue with your assignment or supervisor. When you talk to the volunteer coordinator, you can "interview" them just as s/he will interview you. You need to find a place in which you are comfortable working - think of it as an unpaid internship or temporary job. If you don't like the volunteer coordinator, move on to another organization; that person will be your main link to the organization, so you want to be able to work with him/her.

When I was the Executive Director of City Harvest, we always had at least a part-time volunteer manager. At very least, we needed someone who could handle the inquiries from potential volunteers. Otherwise, it was very frustrating for potential volunteers who needed some kind of response. Over time, we expanded the volunteer manager to full-time because we realized the managers needed help figuring out appropriate volunteer projects.

Give yourself a competitive advantage through flexibility. Nowadays, being a volunteer is not as easy as it once was given the number of people seeking those opportunities. To give yourself an advantage, it's best to be willing to do anything they need done and to have a flexible schedule. Even if you have other responsibilities - a child, an ill parent, school - stretch your availability as much as possible.

Get better assignments by meeting the organization's need for reliability and consistency. Non-profits really need people they can count on week after week for an extended period of time. If you are willing to show up one, two or three days a week for at least 3 months and do work in the office, you may very well get a substantial assignment. That assignment will give you a great feel for what it's like to work for a non-profit, and probably will expose you to many aspects of non-profit work - enough for you to decide the area in which you want to focus your job search.

The more substantial the assignment, the more likely you are to complete something. This will constitute an accomplishment which you can list on your resume. One woman I know secured donations of flowers from a well-known food market for a non-profit for which she volunteered. She's parlayed that into interviews for fundraising jobs.

Network, network, network! Remember this is part of your job search and career development strategy. When you volunteer, you'll make contacts and friends who will be willing to help you with your job search. It's been known to happen that long-term volunteers get hired by the non-profit - you're a known quantity in terms of the quality of your work and your "fit" with the culture of the organization. Even if you don't get a job where you volunteer, your volunteer experience is valuable "work experience" that you add to your resume.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thank You Notes Matter!

To distinguish yourself from other candidates, always send a thank you note to the person or people who interviewed you.

Establish a personal connection through your note.

You are writing to a person who works in a specific place doing real things. So show that you know what they do. Refer to something raised during the interview itself. That will remind the reader about the interview. A shared experience is the beginning of a history together - whether you get the job or not. You never know when you'll run into the person again, or if they will have another job someday for which you'd be right.

Play as if you're on the new team NOW.

While writing the TY note, imagine you're in the job already. The reader wants to know that you a) want the job and b) will fit into the company. So think about what you'd be excited about doing there and then refer to it directly in the letter. Offer an idea or two about how you'd tackle an issue the company faces. You might even consider sending an attachment with some ideas, and in the cover letter, tell the person what and why you are sending it. Your enthusiasm will convey itself to the reader.

Use details to stand out.

* If your handwriting is legible, send a handwritten note on a professional-looking notecard (no kitty cats, please!). Handwritten notes that come in an envelope almost ALWAYS get routed to and then read by the addressee. If your handwriting is illegible, print. Last resort is typing. If you do type the cover letter, make sure you sign your name in blue ink (proof that YOU signed it), and jot a short note at the top or bottom saying "I look forward to hearing from you!" or "I have so many ideas to share with you!" or "I'm excited about the prospect of helping you reach your goals!" or something positive, personal and forward-looking.

* If you must send an e-mail, spend time on it and make your e-mail smart. while e-mail thank you notes are more and more acceptable, they can easily be dismissed unread. Make sure you put "Thank you and some ideas" or something like that in the subject line, to entice the receiver to actually read the e-mail. Do make sure you put at least "Thank you" or "Thank you for seeing me" in the subject line.

* Send it quickly! Have it postmarked the same day as the interview, or at most, the day after.

* Say "Thank you" instead of Thanks (and definitely not Thx!). While the culture may be informal and your interview collegial, you still do not work there and need to show some respect for that distance.

* Send a personalized note to every person with whom you had contact. "Personalized" means different words on each note. People do share notes with each other, and they will notice if you used the same language on each one. That will count far more AGAINST you than if you didn't even send a note. Including everyone means that you may secure advocates for you in HR or among other staff.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Visual CV

It appears that at long last, there is a way to gather all your resume information onto one site - your resume, LinkedIn profile, portfolio of documents and visual items. For now, it is free.

I saw someone else's Visual CV and thought "at last!" I have just signed up for it and will be testing it out.

My hope is that it will provide a simple internet location for job seekers to put all their application information. People are always wondering about tools for creating an on-line portfolio of writing samples or design examples or other samples of their work. LinkedIn has added features like and SlideShare. The downside to is there is a fee after a certain level of use and time. SlideShare can only accommodate slides and PowerPoint presentations.

The question is whether potential employers will really visit the site. I would imagine that recruiters will because it's a great place for them to vet a person prior to talking to them. I just don't see employers going to all that effort, however.

We shall see! And frankly, that's all we can do anyway with all the technology that's being developed and touted as the answer to our prayers. If you have the capacity to make a separate folder of writing samples, why would you need this site? If you don't want to add video to your application materials, you may not need this site. The advantages will become more apparent as more people use it.

I know someone who is going to test out as a place to track her job search. Is it better than an Excel file or a printed table on which you make notes? I don't know. Again, we'll see.

If you have positive experiences with Visual CV or JibberJobber, I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yes, I'm Grateful to Have a Job...

But isn't there something more?

If you're asking this question, don't feel silly. It's OK to ask this question in today's economic climate. In fact, this is a great time to ask such a question. Think of it as beginning to invest in your career future. Ask and explore now, and you'll be ready when the economy opens up and recovers. You can find your "right fit" work.

Think of it as the career equivalent of "buying low." You're putting time and energy into figuring out what you want to do in the future that is more fulfilling. Just as people are spotting economic opportunities, there are career opportunities that will emerge from this horrible, scary economy. Invest in yourself today for a better result tomorrow.

Start looking at what you dream or fantasize about doing.

Don’t worry so much about whether something is achievable or not. Now is not the time to ask "Is what I want a fantasy or achievable?" First of all, Dreams are achievable. Second, fantasy is useful to guide us toward our “right fit.”

Now notice what you are interested in and drawn to.

What websites do you visit? Which items pull your attention first? What magazines do you subscribe to? When you open a newspaper, what articles do you read almost or all the way through? If you decide to take a class, what are you drawn to? Even if you decide not to take it and instead take something “practical,” what sparked your interest?

Actually, pay close attention to the class you “wish” you could take but it really isn’t practical or realistic or useful or something you should spend any time on. That may be the biggest clue to what your potential passion is, to your future “right fit.”

In the noticing, you will start to identify things and activities that are meaningful to you and in which you want to invest time and energy.

Think back to times you did something that you really enjoyed and that you felt you did well.

Make a list of all the projects, activities, and accomplishments you can remember, back to your childhood, including school, play and work. Write down what you liked about each one of them. What is it that makes you especially proud, satisfied and/or happy? What impact did your effort make? Looking at all of them, can you identify any common themes? Perhaps you liked helping people, or making things look beautiful, or improving a system, or building something. The themes will tell you what makes you happiest.

Take one of these and write in great detail how you went about the project. Talk about how it made you feel. There will be clues here to how you like working and to the kind of culture you enjoy.

In the exploring process, it’s helpful to put aside judgment.

This is merely the exploration phase, the time when you get to know a little more about the topic or issue or field that sparked your interest. There’s no lifetime commitment called for, simply information gathering.

When you start to explore a new field, by definition you know very little about it. In gathering more information, you will start to be affected by the new information – it may resonate with you and spur you on to learn more, or you will shy away from further exploration.

A gut reaction is a fantastic guide during your “information gathering.” Scientists have found that we actually have a second brain in our stomachs. So your gut is literally processing information, especially emotional information, to help us make better decisions.

Cover Letters: attachment or in e-mail body?

Apparently, this question is in the air, as a job seeker noted in her IM to me this morning. My initial response was:

Normally, I'd say "attach" as you control the look of your letter. Also, I think folks are more likely to just skim an e-mail instead of really reading it, and highly unlikely to print it out. It's more likely that they'll save it as an attachment just as they would save the resume.

However, if you strongly prefer, it is OK to paste your cover letter text into the body of an e-mail. You'll have to pay attention to margins and font, make sure it looks OK in an e-mail - and when it's printed out.

On second thought, however, I recommend sending a PDF or Word file that has the cover letter as page1 or at most pages 1-2, and the resume as pages 2-3 or 3-4. This way, the person is saving only one document. Tolook at the resume, they have to see the cover letter as well.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you label the file with your name followed by the words "resume and cover letter."

Including your name ensures that your materials are associated with you alone, and can be easily sent and found using your name. It also is that attention to detail that makes potential employers associate you with providing solutions instead of causing problems - e.g. they have to label your resume with your name in order to maintain a record of your application.

In this environment, small things like an unlabeled resume loom large. Chances are that the employer won't bother adding a label, instead simply tossing your application in the virtual trash can.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Stop-Gap Measures in Job Search

Several people I work with are looking at ways to convert their professional expertise into consulting business. The motivation: jobs are fewer and more far between than they initially hoped and they need to make some money. And they need to keep busy, keep their skills sharp, and be of use to the world.

There is a market for consultants now. I hear from several people that they are getting feedback from their networks that companies are interested in hiring consultants instead of full-time employees, for the foreseeable future. Two people today reported that two prospective employers said point-blank that while there is too much work to handle with current staffing levels, they will only consider hiring consultants to fill the gap.

So we're taking resumes and transforming much of the content into marketing material. It's fascinating how this process is helping us sharpen up their perception of their value. Quite often, people have a difficult time writing crisp, focused resume profiles that clearly identify their core value proposition. Yet words flow much more easily when thinking through what they actually can market as a consultant.

In positioning yourself as a consultant, the core questions to answer are:

1. What problem can you solve for someone? Identifying a clear problem is an essential first step, because people usually more easily know what their problems are. They will hire YOU to provide a solution to the problem.

2. How have you solved a similar problem for your past employers? Examples are critical. You've developed a marketable skill set as an employee and you can use that experience for the benefit of clients. Don't worry if you've never been a consultant; many consultants start after building their skills as an employee. Prospective clients are really interested only in whether you demonstrate how your projects while employed are similar to those you'll work on for them.

3. What impact can you deliver for the prospective client? Here you need to focus on something measurable, directional, or somehow indicative of your real value. One woman said "Put me on your team, and get full-time senior level expertise on a part-time basis." Someone else is starting with "I help companies preserve their core, and reduce costs by automating or outsourcing the rest."

4. What services can you specifically offer to deliver on your promise? Here you need to be as clear and targeted as possible. As with a resume, if you list something, you will undoubtedly be asked to do it. So don't include things you don't like or want to do. Be specific also because people have little imagination. It's like those home shows where the designer stages the house because prospective buyers need to have everything shown to them or they can't imagine what a room could look like. Spell it out in simple, clear, concrete terms. Give examples. One client said:

"I have expertise in planning and rolling out winning direct mail campaigns. Sample projects:
* Measure and analyze campaign results.
*Reduce costs through successful market research and targeted outreach."

These specifics spark people's imaginations, as in "oh that reminds me, we have a market research project we've had on the back burner for six months."

5. Why should anyone hire you? Provide a summary of your credentials - as a bio or an opening profile with a list of employers, education and training. Get recommendations from co-workers, colleagues, former bosses - especially recommendations for LinkedIn.

Answers to those questions should give you enough material for a decent marketing piece. You may want to go back and change your resume to more clearly reflect the perspective you have gained through this process. At very least, you'll have a better elevator pitch.

Make sure whatever you pull together looks good, contains your contact information, and is in PDF format so you can attach it to e-mails. It can be one, two or three pages - or a full-blown brochure if you think consulting is in your immediate future and for some time to come. I also highly recommend getting business cards for your consulting business. Cards should list some of your services as well as your name and contact information. You never know when someone comes along who needs your help.

As you network, make sure you mention to people that you are available for consulting work. Hand them your consulting business card, and follow up with an e-mail and the marketing piece as an attachment.

Coming up with a fee structure will require you doing a little bit of research. Different industries have different standard rates. You can charge per project or by the hour. You can have a sliding scale, depending on the client (e.g. the "friend rate" or the "non-profit rate" are typically lower than a regular rate). If you offer a discounted rate, tell the client that you are doing that. Hopefully, they will realize that they are getting a good value.

One client did a wonderful brochure and then got a job. Someone else built a website based on the original marketing piece, and is now launching her coaching business with great initial success. You never know where it will lead when you decide to zero in on exactly what you do well enough that someone will pay you to do it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Be happier at work

Live your principles at work instead of focusing on the end result. Your focus becomes the process of building integrity vs gaining power, prestige or position.

When I focus on behaving in a way that I respect, I have more control over the outcome - because it's my own behavior that I am working to manage. When my goal is to live my values, I get many opportunities to practice. It's difficult, and so worth it.

My experience is that when I have and live out my principles, I will experience great satisfaction and happiness. Often people are attracted to me because I have integrity - they can count on me being a certain way consistently. Consistency makes people feel safe.

Will I also reap work "rewards" or other results by developing integrity? My experience is yes, sometimes. Integrity is often mentioned as desirable in job postings. Many books by leaders talk about integrity as a critical factor in their success.

I found that I was a stronger leader, more comfortable with the power I did have, when I was true to my values. By doing what I believed was right, by taking a stand, by being firm even as others disagreed and tried to sway me, I gave people something to follow and rally around. They could count on me. Likewise, when I contradicted my stated values, people felt betrayed and then got tacit permission to betray me. In my February 3, 2009 post, I explain more about that.

I say "sometimes" you get rewarded because there are workplaces that do not value the same things you do. In those cases, when you live out your values, you will stick out like a sore thumb and life can become highly unpleasant. I had that experience, too.

After a life-changing experience, I realized that for me the most important thing at work was the quality of my relationships with other workers, not getting things done. The predominant culture was getting things done, no matter the cost to the human beings involved. As I focused on creating a small group culture of mutual respect and fun, certain people wanted to work in my group. That they happened to be top performers in other managers' groups was a source of enormous anger from those managers toward me. While I was protecting my team from the dog-eat-dog culture, I was the target of political infighting and undermining. It was extremely painful.

Yet, I persevered because I had changed irrevocably. I could not abandon this one core value any more than I could cut out my heart. And eventually, I found a leadership position where I could create an entire culture based on respect, transparency and fun.

Most important, I take my values and self-respect with me wherever I go, no matter what I do for work. I can always count on myself, regardless of what happens around me.

For me, integrity is the essence of "personal branding" and the source of happiness at work. Try it!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Up-to-Date and Well-Seasoned Job Seekers

As the title of this post implies, experienced workers can present themselves as both seasoned and up-to-date. The two are not mutually exclusive. And in fact there might be some advantage to being both, for employers are getting current thinking along with the wisdom that often comes from longer experience.

How exactly does one show a prospective employer that you are this rare combination of hip and experienced?

Start with your initial approach - the cover letter and resume. Highlight your familiarity with the internet world and all things digital - as well as your interest in keeping current with technology and the marketplace, your curiosity and open mind, your adaptability and flexibility, and your willingness to keep learning and doing new things. These are the hallmarks of a "young" worker, regardless of chronological age or experience.

It's easy to immediately and visually convey your "young mind" to a prospective employer. Use the following techniques in your resume and cover letter to powerfully demonstrate your up-to-date thinking and current skills, as you list your double-digit years of employment on your resume.

1. Have an e-mail address as part of your contact information on your resume and in your cover letter.

Make sure you have enabled the e-mail address to be a hyperlink so the employer can actually send you an e-mail by clicking on that address. If you are using Word, this is done automatically as long as you go one space beyond the e-mail address. You'll know it's activated when the type color turns blue and the address gets underlined.

2. Add your LinkedIn Profile url to your resume's contact information.

The url is the web address for your public profile, and it is listed on your LinkedIn profile page as Public Profile. My public profile's url is I've used HTML to make it a hyperlink in this blog post, so you can see how it will look in your resume in this format.

You can use the entire url, or you can follow the same steps in the suggestion below to make the label "LinkedIn Profile" a hyperlink directly to that web address. It will look like this on your resume: LinkedIn Profile.

It should go without saying that you need to create a LinkedIn profile to which you can direct potential employers. Read my previous post on using LinkedIn to help your job search.

3. Make the names of your employers past and present into hyperlinks. Hyperlinks have a powerful visual impact; they scream "familiar with Internet!" and "comfortable with digital tools!" and "Modernista!" These are very good sentiments.

Here are the steps for doing that on a Word document.

* On your resume, highlight the name of an employer and copy it.
* Go to your web browser and whatever internet search engine you use, and paste the employer name into the search box. Click "search."
* When you see the search results, click on the correct home link for the employer and go to the home page of the site.
* At the top of the screen will be the http:// address for the employer's home page. Highlight and copy that address.
* Return to the Word document. On the top toolbar, click on the "Insert" command to see the options.
* When you see "hyperlink" on the menu, click on it. A new window will open up.
* Put your cursor on the box labeled "Address" and hit "Control" "V" (that's the Control Key followed by the letter V). This command will automatically enter the copied http:// website address.
* Hit "Enter" and the employer name will be transformed into a hyperlink to the employer's website, as indicated by the type turning blue and the name being underlined.

Repeat this for every employer. If you are a consultant and have listed some clients, create hyperlinks to the clients' websites. You don't have to make all the names hyperlinks, just a sprinkling of the most interesting, highest profile, or relevant to your search. In fact, having too many hyperlinks will distract a reader and may lead them not to focus on the substance of your resume. Only do hyperlinks where they will serve your purpose of focusing attention on your accomplishments and your consequent value to your next employer.

Here's what hyperlinks would look like in a resume (while the ink is orange here, you can still get the idea).


New York Restoration Project 2005-2006
Executive Director
[text of responsibilities and bullets with accomplishments]

City Harvest 1994-2005
Executive Director
[text of responsibilities and bullets with accomplishments]

A note on the "age" dilemma:

Many experienced workers are leery of putting down all their years of work and most positively shudder when asked when they graduated from college or graduate school. My philosophy is that you have to be comfortable with what you put in your resume; I simply provide information and ask questions to make sure you make an informed decision.

It can seem like you are inviting the reader to do the math and come up with your age. If you provide the information, it leaves fewer questions unanswered, yet can perhaps unconsciously bias the employer. And, like it or not, the "how old is this person" calculation pretty much always happens even though employers are not permitted to ask about age or discriminate on the basis of age.

If you choose not to include years of graduation or your very earliest jobs, understand that the reviewer will probably assume you are older. Younger people normally do not hesitate to include the year they received a degree.

Of course, without the year, they don't know exactly how old you are. Perhaps they will assume you are "too old" without a year; perhaps they won't.

The folks I talk with end up making their own decision about adding years to their degrees in the resume's education section. My sense is that adding the hyperlinks throughout your resume can counterbalance much (if not all) of the potential bias against interviewing and hiring a very experienced person.